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GRAMMY PREVIEW: CAITLYN SMITH

Burning Brightly

Interview by Holly Gleason

Caitlyn Smith has long been a Nashville favorite for her torchy way of finding a song’s emotional core. The writer behind Meghan Trainor f/John Legend’s “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” and Kenny Rogers f/Dolly Parton’s “You Can’t Make Old Friends,” Smith specializes in songs that reverberate with the tensions that pull people together. Supernova, her second release for Jason Owen and Shane McAnally’s Monument reboot, digs into the rich singer/songwriter terrain that made the work of Carole King, Carly Simon and Bonnie Raitt’s Don Was years a window into how women face the world.


What’s your favorite Grammy memory?
Seeing Norah Jones sweep all the awards in 2003 made me immediately sit down and practice my piano. And I remember hearing Adele for the first time on the Grammys, and thinking, “Who the heck is Adele, and how is she real?” Instant fan forever!

My favorite moments are the vulnerable, stripped down performances where you get to see an artist’s raw talent in its purest form—no frills or anything; just a voice and an instrument. To me, there’s nothing better.

You’re an incredible vocalist, and Supernova takes on a shape that transcends genre.
I don’t think much at all about genre when writing; I do my best to get to the guts of the feeling—and see where it takes me. I’m a storyteller at heart. Sometimes it leans country, sometimes not. Vocally, I explore all the corners because it’s fun. Some days, I need to rock out. Some days I’m a barefoot country ballad, the next a soulful pop jam. That’s the beauty of music: There are no rules.

One of my favorite things as a singer is taking the listener on a ride: super-small, quiet and vulnerable, then slowly reel them in—only to jump off the rooftops, sing from my toes and let the emotions soar. Most of the songs on Supernova seem to take that shape. My goal is to get everybody all up in their feelings.

“Supernova” is such a naked truth.
“Supernova” came from watching my little boy play in the backyard. I felt like I was the one upside down on the monkey bars just a second ago; only now, I’m the responsible human teaching him how to live. I took the concept to my dear friend, Aimee Mayo, and we talked and cried about our parents and how quickly our kids are growing up and life just flying by. We crafted these sweet little vignettes that make life so sweet—the curly hair and Matchbox cars. Leave the light on, ’cause you’re afraid of the dark. Reaching for my hand when you cross the road.

Then we got this picture of a supernova—the brightest, fullest expression of a star in its final moments just before it burns out. We thought, “Man, that’s a pretty perfect example of how to live: as full and bright as possible.”

With the Big Four categories being all-genre, is transcending labels what the Grammys do best?
Yes! Who would’ve thought of putting together Eminem and Elton John, J.Lo and Prince—oh, and my fave collab: Sara Bareilles and Carole King. It’s a beautiful thing when genre lines are blurred. Or better yet, demolished.

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